Tuesday's attempt by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, to introduce a motion calling for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney was a perfect illustration of why Congress has a lower approval rating than President Bush.
Under House rules, Kucinich offered a privileged resolution calling for impeachment. That meant the full House had two days to consider Kucinich's motion.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., didn't want to wait that long. He moved to table (i.e., kill) Kucinich's motion. That was not a surprise. Hoyer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the rest of the Democratic leadership remain steadfastly opposed to impeachment.
Hoyer counted on a quick vote to kill it. But Republican House members decided they wanted to cause a little mischief. During an unusually long vote, enough Republican members switched their votes to pass the measure by a 251-162 margin.
The Republicans thought they had an opportunity to force Democrats to debate impeaching Cheney on the House floor in front of the C-SPAN cameras. So Hoyer pulled another ace from the bottom of the deck and moved to have the resolution referred to the House Judiciary Committee. That passed by a 218-194 vote.
Kucinich's motion could end up being buried in that committee, which is led by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. Previous impeachment efforts have gone nowhere in Conyer's committee, and this effort will likely meet the same fate.
Little news coveragewas devoted to this vote, and what there was focused more on the politics than the substance of what happened. While both parties accused the other of playing partisan games, the reality is that this was the first real attempt to highlight the misdeeds of the Bush administration and force the Democrats to take a stand on impeaching Bush and Cheney.
And caught in the middle of this was Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.
On one side are Pelosi and Hoyer, who gave the freshman congressman a plum assignment on the House Rules Committee. Welch's loyalty to the Democratic leadership is reflected by his support of the leadership's stand against impeachment.
On the other side are his constituents, who support impeachment. A recent WCAX poll found 61 percent of Vermonters support impeachment of President Bush and 64 percent support impeachment of Vice President Cheney.
So what did Welch do? He split the difference. Welch voted to debate Kucinich's motion on the floor, then voted to sent it to the Judiciary Committee.
While Welch and other Democrats continue to talk about impeachment being a distraction to more important priorities, such as ending the war in Iraq, the reality is that the Democrats haven't figured out yet that none of the issues they hold dear will be accomplished until Bush and Cheney are removed from office.
Remember, we're talking about a president whose approval ratings are in the mid-20s. This week, the Gallup Poll found that, for the first time in its history, 50 percent of Americans say they "strongly disapprove" of the president. That beat the previous mark of 48 percent set by Richard Nixon in July 1974, just before the House Judiciary Committee began an impeachment inquiry.
More unpopular than Nixon. That's where President Bush is right now. And Vice President Cheney is even more unpopular. Yet the Democrats are still frightened of these men and afraid to confront them. That's why, as disliked as Bush and Cheney are, voters give the Democratic-led Congress even lower marks.
A Democratic majority was elected to Congress last year to end the war in Iraq and rein in the Bush administration. Neither thing has happened. On issue after issue, the Democrats have caved in to Bush. And impeachment remains off the table.
Under House rules, Kucinich or any other member could introduce a motion for impeachment every day that Congress is in session. We think that sounds like a good idea. The administration has committed many crimes that rise to the level of impeachment -- chief among them lying about the need to invade Iraq and sending this country into war based upon those lies. But Congress will not carry out its constitutional duties.
Bush and Cheney must not be allowed to leave office without being held accountable for their behavior. History will not look at the current members of Congress kindly if they fail to do what is right and necessary to preserve our democracy.
© 2007 the Brattleboro Reformer